Peace starts today

At a Prince George Rotary peace event in 2018, the audience was asked was to share their thoughts of what peace really means to them.

The main themes that emerged from each group were similar.

Inclusiveness. Respect. Collaboration. Joy. Community. Dignity. Forgiveness. Kindness. Acceptance. Tolerance. Co-operation. Harmony. Unity. Compassion. Supportive. Friendship. Smiles. Education. Diversity. Sustainability. It set the table for a fantastic evening.

Each year, the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on Sept. 21. The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of Peace.

Rotary International, comprised of 1.2 million members around the world, including more than 150 Rotarians in Prince George in three clubs along with Rotaract (19-30 year-olds) and Interact (high school) is an organization where neighbours, friends and problem-solvers, share ideas, join leaders and create lasting change locally and internationally.

We are people of action. Promoting peace is important to Rotary.

It is among our six areas of focus, which also include fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, growing local economies, and supporting education.

Why is peace crucial?

Every project that Rotarians undertake, whether in Prince George, provincially, nationally and internationally, has a certain element of peace to it.

Yellowhead Rotary's Taste of India fundraiser has supported the Blackburn Community Association, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Prince George Public Library and St. Patrick's House.

Prince George Downtown Rotary's Gourmet Gala fundraises for the breakfast program at Westwood elementary, scholarships, bursaries, suicide prevention, mental wellness and youth programs.

Operation Red Nose, organized by the Nechako Rotary Club, helps get party-goers safely home during the holiday season and supports youth and amateur sport organizations.

Through our youth services programs, whether through youth exchange or the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, we help students develop better ethics, communication and leadership skills.

The youth exchange program gives Prince George high school students the opportunity to study abroad around the world.

Ambassadors for not only Prince George, but Canada, they create lifelong friendships, find common ground and embrace their differences. In 2018-19, three local students spent the year in Norway, Italy and Denmark.

Over the years, our collaborative efforts in Prince George have made a huge difference to the community.

Rotary Hospice House provides peace and comfort to families and their loved ones. The Rotary Soccer Fields provide a field of play for a game that stresses teamwork sportsmanship and fun. The Rotary Hair and Wig Salon at the Kordyban Cancer Lodge has helped ease the anxiety of cancer patients who lose their hair.

In 2018, we joined forces to plant 200 seedlings in Rainbow Park to replace trees that were hit by the pine beetle epidemic.

Those are just but a few examples that support education, sustainability, better health, inclusiveness, tolerance, dignity and community. Prince George Rotarians are passionate about eradicating polio. Since 1998, Rotarians have worked closely with the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the number of polio cases by 99.99 per cent.

The disease only remains in three countries - Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Rotarians around the world have contributed millions of dollars to the End Polio Now campaign. One dose of the vaccine only costs $1. It is why Sept. 21 is so important to Rotarians.

You can learn more about Rotary's peace efforts or Rotary in general this Saturday at Downtown PG's Fall Fest.

Stop by our table and let us know what your idea of peace is.

Or you're welcome to learn more at any one of the Prince George clubs at our meetings at the Coast Inn of the North.

The Rotary Club of Prince George meets Tuesdays for lunch; the Nechako Rotary Club meets Wednesdays for breakfast at 7 a.m.; and the Yellowhead Club meets Thursdays for lunch.

-- Andrea Johnson is a peace champion and the public relations chair for the Rotary Club of Prince George Nechako and Rotary District 5040.